Friday, March 09, 2012
"We have seen that this is particularly so of the police, whose role in dispensing law also gives them a privileged position in defining a wide range of social situations. The information upon which criminality is determined, court action proceeds and wider social and political issues are identified, to a large extent flows upward from officers involved in routine 'enforcement'. It is a logical entailment of this role that police will seek to directly define issues pertinent to their role via the media. Importantly, there are no clear boundaries between licit and illicit conduct in this regard. A witness statement to the Leveson Inquiry from Jacqueline Hames, a Metropolitan Police officer and former presenter of the BBC program Crimewatch, suggests that this indeterminacy could be settled by better training and a wider awareness of guidelines. But this is a 'technological' solution to a non-technical problem: the same professional autonomy that allows police to define the situations they work in - to 'work up' charges where they are so motivated, to stop and search, to detain without charge, to deploy strategic violence and then write up the reports which rationalise their approach in the language of bureaucracy – empowers the police to define their relations with reporters.
"This brings the media into the field of 'parapolitics', an area in which the exercise of political and ideological power is conducted in forms and according to hierarchies not formally recognised in the 'public' sphere. 'Parapolitics' is a term that is usually associated with researchers into 'conspiracy theory', a field that is blighted with kookiness, silliness and 'infotainment' posing as revelation. But when theory becomes scandalous fact, there is no reason to be coy. The networks of mutual dependency that I have described are effectively a 'conspiracy machine', an ensemble of mechanisms that are apt to produce constant flows of illicitly obtained information, and the constant maintenance of relations which keep the flows going. The staggering range and depth of the Murdoch empire's involvement in criminal enterprise at various levels over many years, of which it is prudent to assume we know only a fraction, would have been impossible to sustain otherwise.
"And this enjoins us to re-phrase familiar questions in a different light. It is common, for example, to despairingly ask how we can root out the culture of corruption and sleaze in journalism. Or, one might ask, how far up the chain does the corruption go? As if, were we to identify Rupert Murdoch as conspirator-in-chief, a knowing agent of political corruption, the problem would be resolved. In reality, despite Murdoch's hands-on approach to running his tabloids, and without wishing to foreclose future investigation, it is highly improbable that the Dirty Digger personally would have dug in the dirt. The real question, for those who do not want this situation to be endlessly repeated, is: what sort of media would behave differently? And, as a corollary: what sort of society would give rise to a better media?"